Way back in the Dark Ages (top years of primary school actually) I had a wonderful English teacher. Her name was Mrs Howse and her lessons were a joy. She had a way of making her point by making us laugh and sharing her wonder at the way language could help us understand different and often deeper concepts. Obviously, I didn’t get that back then but I do so appreciate it now. I have loved this magical little ditty ever since she taught it to us:
‘I wish I was a little egg
Way up in a tree
Sitting in my little nest
As rotten as could be.
I wish that you would come along
And stand beneath that tree
And I would up and burst myself
And cover thee with me.’
She used to recite the last couple of lines with absolute relish and we would howl with laughter every time so it really stuck. Somehow in the middle of all this she would convey the truth – that we can’t always do what we would really like to do because it might have repercussions for us personally, however good it felt at the time. She was a very wise woman.
There have been times in the last year when I have been forcibly reminded of this poem and its associated life lesson. So, I offer it here in the hope that it will raise a smile and you find it useful as you go through your working day and then find yourself able to laugh at the provocations, not fall into the reaction trap.
In terms of professionalism or personal integrity, it’s hard to express that doing what you want to do at any moment has consequences, whether you have cause to react or not. Every personal decision has repercussions and, if we react to provocation in a way that diminishes us, then we are forever changed – and not for the better. If we make bad or wrong decisions, they can diminish us personally and in the eyes of those around us. So, when the provocation strikes – and it inevitably will – the best route is to try to take a deep breath and pause or count to 5 or whatever you do to give yourself that essential moment to think clearly about your next action. You won’t regret it. I still shudder when I think back to an incident many years ago, when I reacted angrily to extreme provocation in the workplace and I regret it to this day. Over the years, I have searched in vain for the poem's author but have been unable to find one. Perhaps Mrs Howse wrote it herself or maybe you know differently. If so, I'd love to hear from you.